2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse First Impressions

Perched beneath the big guns on the deck of the mighty battleship USS Iowa, Indian Motorcycle was flexing a little muscle of its own, the 2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse. The blacked-out treatment suits the big bagger well, injects it with a little more “rock & roll.” If Indian’s seeking to broaden their customer base and attract a younger demographic using essentially the same platform, it’s surprising how something as simple as a new color can do just that. Because during our adventure up the California coast, more often than not it’s been younger guys coming over to check it out, heads nodding and thumbs up. Mission accomplished.

“There’s an attitude difference and that’s really what the Chief Dark Horse lineup is all about,” said Indian Motorcycle’s External Relations Manager Robert Pandya.

In addition to making millenials drool, Indian designed the Chieftain Dark Horse “to be our most customizable platform.”

2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse ride review

We’ve rumbled around California and up to Oregon, logging 1000 miles in five days, to test out the 2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse.

“We’re starting to see a lot of custom baggers come out off of this platform,” added Pandya.

The Indian Chieftain Dark Horse has custom appeal right off the showroom floor. The distinctive fairing looks sharp in black, the treatment accentuates the swoop of the valanced front fender nicely, and the chief’s face under the ebony Indian headdress shines like a beacon at night. Indian trimmed down the electronically adjustable windscreen just a tad and slapped on a wide, studded solo seat with a cush contour and thick padding. The list of factory Indian aftermarket accessories is extensive, from apehanger handlebars to saddlebag speakers to performance parts.

An Indian Chieftain Dark Horse that had already received the custom treatment by Hollister Powersports sat next to the stock bike on deck to further demonstrate its customization potential. While the taller 21-inch RC Components front hoop, the lights frenched into the rear, trimmed-down stock front fender and custom paint required some expertise, the rest of the transformation was achieved with factory accessories. Rey Sotelo, Hollister Powersports General Manager, has seen Indian Motorcycles come full circle. He was one of the figureheads of the Gilroy Indian team who didn’t have the engineering and resources its current owner, Polaris Industries, does. Sotelo said it was a privilege getting to be the first to put the custom treatment on the Indian Chieftain Dark Horse.

2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse test

‘Merica! American Iron tests out some American iron, the 2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse.

Our journey aboard the latest Chieftain began at the motorcycle’s press launch in San Pedro. From there, it was a lane-splitting blast up the 405 and Highway 101 to Pismo Beach. In Pismo we met up with the Why We Ride group for a scenic spin of the California coast on our way to Carmel for the Quail Motorcycle Gathering. After that, we charted a course for California State Routes 9 and 35, a wonderfully twisty strip in the Bay Area on our way to the popular biker hangout Alice’s Restaurant. Then it was over to Dublin to Arlen Ness Motorcycles to get the Chieftain Dark Horse its first 500 miles service job and to get the infernal “Change Oil Now” indicator to shut off. We polished it off with a blast up I-5 to Oregon, logging just over 1000 miles in five days. We’ve run it over just about every type of road, from fast sweepers to snaking ribbons of asphalt to highway miles. So far we’ve averaged 38 miles-per-gallon on the Indian Chieftain Dark Horse, but our journey’s not over yet.

Did we mention this particular bike we’re testing has the Thunder Stroke Stage 1 Slip-On Exhaust Kit, Thunder Stroke High Flow Air Cleaner, and Stage 2 Performance Cams? While you’ll have to wait for the full ride review in an upcoming issue of American Iron Magazine, right now all we can say is “Oh, snap!” Until then…

Be sure to check out back issues for other motorcycle reviews, custom bike features, tech and DIY articles and plenty more good stuff at Greaserag!

The Indian Chieftain Dark Horse called "The Redeemer"on the deck of USS Iowa.

Hollis Powersports built “The Redeemer” to demonstrate how a few fairly easy changes can transform the 2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse. 

Hollis Powersports 1st to Customize Indian Chieftain Dark Horse “The Redeemer”

Indian Motorcycle, America’s first motorcycle company, is proud to present the “The Redeemer” built by Hollister Powersports of Hollister, Calif., utilizing the new Indian Chieftain Dark Horse motorcycle, a bike that is an ideal base for a custom.

A bagger with an undeniable presence, the 2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse offers a ton of matte black, a flicker of chrome, and a wealth of standard features to roll as one of the most badass American-made V-twin bikes on the market. Hollister’s approach to customizing took the Chieftain Dark Horse and added modifications that would be easily approachable for any owner who wants to recreate the look with their own vision.

First custom Indian Chieftain Dark Horse "The Redeemer."

Hollis Powersports got to be the first to customize an Indian Chieftain Dark Horse called”The Redeemer.”

“When I saw the bike, I knew right away that it had a ton of potential to customize,” says Rey Sotelo, General Manager of Hollister Powersports. “We were inspired by the history of Hollister and how this great American town is coming back from an unfair bad reputation. We stayed with the matte black theme and used as many Authentic Indian Motorcycle accessories as we could because we wanted the weekend mechanic to be able to recreate something as badass as our custom. Radical customs certainly draw the eye – but we wanted to keep the bike rideable every day.”

“We wanted to put a 21-inch wheel on it so we chose an option from RC Components,” Sotelo continued. “We liked the aluminum accents on RC’s Raider Eclipse wheel, and knew it would tie in with the paint job and the brushed finish on the motor.”

Hollister trimmed the stock fender to reveal more of the custom wheel and lighten the overall look of the bike. The fender skirts were cut back and the caliper covers were removed, dramatically changing the front profile of the motorcycle. The fairing is stock, but painted with speed scallops that tie in with the front fender, tank, side panels and saddlebags. The scallops are painted on the rear fender as well, so even if the saddlebags are pulled off the speed scallops theme still plays throughout the bike.

Rey Sotelo Hollister Powersports

Rey Sotelo, General Manager of Hollister Powersports, talks about the Indian Chieftain Dark Horse he and his team customized.

“We installed the 14-inch accessory Indian Motorcycle Ape-Hangers, but painted them matte black,” Sotelo says. “The kit includes a longer clutch cable, and the brake cable and wiring are long enough so no modifications are needed, which makes it really easy for the weekend mechanic to install.”

The engine jugs remain as they did when they left the factory, but Hollister put a little matte paint on the otherwise gloss side covers and added highlighting to the ‘Indian’ script on the air-cleaner in matte silver to stand out.

To add even more style, Authentic Indian Motorcycle billet floorboards were added. The stock seat, which comes with white stitching, was re-covered using black stitching. While the seat’s studs are normally chrome, Hollister had its upholsterer brush them to give the look of a stainless steel finish.

Out back, a pair of turn signals were incorporated into the saddlebags to further visually lighten the bike. “We played with different lights, but we just really liked the look of these,” Sotelo says, “so we frenched them into the bags and matted the taillight out.” The saddlebags also received 100-watt Authentic Indian Motorcycle speakers to boost output of the already powerful audio system.

Finally, sticking out from beneath the saddlebags, a blacked out Indian Motorcycle Stage 1 slip-on exhaust with brushed billet tips was installed to offer a snappier throttle response and more bark to the already potent Thunder Stroke 111 engine.

Holliister Indian Chieftain

Hollister is steeped in biker tradition, so it was only fitting that Hollister Powersports got to be the first to customize the Indian Chieftain Dark Horse.

Ultimately, any owner of an Indian Chieftain Dark Horse could achieve the look of the The Redeemer with the availability of more than 300 Chieftain and 150 blacked out Authentic Indian Motorcycle Accessories and light some custom work.

“The guys in Hollister built an obtainable custom – a bike somebody could build themselves and keep highly ride-able rather than just a showpiece,” commented Reid Wilson, Marketing Director for Indian Motorcycle. “Rey and his team will certainly inspire our owners to create their own Chieftain Dark Horse custom, and we can’t wait to see what they do to make the bikes their own.”

Visit Hollister Powersports online at HollisterPowersports.com. Learn more about Indian Motorcycle and the Chieftain Dark Horse by visiting IndianMotorcycle.com and Facebook,Twitter and Instagram social media channels.

Chieftain Dark Horses on US Iowa

The custom Chieftain Dark Horse called “The Redeemer” sits next to a stock Chieftain Dark Horse on the deck of the battleship USS Iowa.

Blacked-Out & Bad to the Bone – Indian Chieftain Dark Horse First Look

Introducing the 2017 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse.

Introducing the 2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse.

Indian Motorcycle Company has been shaking up the status quo of the American cruiser motorcycle segment since it landed in the hands of Polaris, Inc. Tapping into the brand’s heritage and injecting it with modern performance and technology, the company’s combination of solidly built bikes and aggressive marketing strategies has steadily cut into Harley-Davidson’s market share.

The motorcycle that created the biggest stir when Polaris relaunched the brand was the Chieftain. Never before had Indian released a hard bagger, especially one with a regal disposition and a stomping powerplant like the Thunder Stroke 111. At the Sturgis debut of the initial Indian lineup, the Chieftain was the star and has been a solid competitor to Harley’s hugely popular Road Glide and Street Glide baggers since its release.

The plot thickens as Indian is now offering a blacked-out version of its hot-selling bagger. There’s something about splashing a bike in matte black that gives it a raw, edgy attitude. The 2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse has the blacked-out treatment from fender-to-fender, including the engine.

And while a darker, more menacing version of the Chieftain is a welcome sight, what piques our interest even more are the performance upgrades Indian is offering for the Thunder Stroke 111. The package includes Stage 2 Performance Cams, a Thunder Stroke High Flow Air Cleaner, and Stage 1 Exhaust. The combination reportedly provides snappier throttle response and a bigger punch.

We’ll test those claims tomorrow as American Iron Magazine is headed to Los Angeles to ride one. After putting in some city miles, we’re headed up the California coast to the Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, then continuing north to Oregon in order to give the 2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse a proper shakedown. Keep an eye out for a full ride review in an upcoming edition of American Iron Magazine.

2017 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse engine

One of the most exciting things about the new Indian Chieftain Dark Horse is the performance package it’s offering for the Thunder Stroke 111. The package includes Stage 2 Performance Cams, a Thunder Stroke High Flow Air Cleaner, and Stage 1 Exhaust.

Here’s the official press release on the latest Indian Motorcycle along with a spec sheet.

Indian Motorcycle, America’s first motorcycle company, has launched the Indian Chieftain Dark Horse, a blacked-out hard bagger that allows riders to easily customize their ride and hit the highway in head-turning style.

A bagger with undeniable presence, the Chieftain Dark Horse offers a ton of matte black, a flicker of chrome, and a wealth of features to roll as one of the most bad-ass American-made V-Twin bikes on the market. The Chieftain Dark Horse conveys an aggressive attitude that demands attention for all the right reasons.

Powered by a blacked-out version of the celebrated Thunder Stroke 111 engine and built upon the same highly lauded chassis and suspension as the Indian Chieftain, the new Chieftain Dark Horse comes from the factory outfitted with a solo seat and short, tinted power windscreen, yet maintains its spacious power-locking hard bags, ABS, electronic cruise control, tire pressure monitoring system, premium stereo with AM/FM Bluetooth and smartphone compatible input, and remote key fob with keyless ignition.

To amplify the Dark Horse family attributes, not only are the fenders, fairing, fuel tank and bags blacked out, the iconic Indian Motorcycle headdress, forks, mirrors, handlebars and switch cubes, turn signals, tank console, engine and airbox cover, lower controls, floorboards and taillight housing are also blacked out.

Of course, Indian Motorcycle also offers a large selection of authentic factory accessories to further individualize your already stealthy ride, including new Blackout series accessory air cleaners, performance cams and slip-on exhausts, as well as pumping up the stereo with 100-watt saddlebag lid speakers.

“The Indian Chieftain Dark Horse’s blacked-out styling and powerful Thunder Stroke 111 engine will elevate our rider to the top of the pack,” says Indian Motorcycle Marketing Director Reid Wilson. “Starting with the award-winning Chieftain platform, the Dark Horse series signature matte black paint and raw attitude is an open canvas for customization that makes it the perfect bike for riders who are ready to ‘Be Legendary’.”

The Indian Chieftain Dark Horse comes with a two-year unlimited mileage factory warranty and is available in dealerships now starting at just $ 21,999. For more information, visit www.IndianMotorcycle.com.

Indian Chieftain Dark Horse

Indian gave its hard bagger the blacked-out treatment, the Indian Chieftain Dark Horse looking more menacing than ever as a result.

BLACKED-OUT STYLING: It’s black from top to bottom, including the wheels, forks, handlebars, engine, bodywork – even the iconic headdress up front.

THUNDER STROKE 111: The proven, powerful Thunder Stroke 111 engine serves up 119 ft-lbs of torque, and is finished primarily in black.

TOURING AMENITIES: With a commanding power-windscreen equipped fairing and lockable hard bags out back, you’re ready to rack up miles in style and comfort.

PREMIUM AUDIO: The Indian Chieftain Dark Horse features a premium audio system with an AM/FM stereo, Bluetooth connectivity and smartphone compatible input. 100-watt premium audio from dual high-output speakers in the fairing deliver quality sound, and you can further boost the volume of your tunes with accessory 100- watt saddlebag lid audio.

KEYLESS IGNITION: Keyless starting is secure and convenient. With the Indian Chieftain Dark Horse key fob in your pocket, climb on the bike, push a button and ride. If you misplace the fob, use the individual security code you pre-program into the ignition.


PERFORMANCE: Rev up enhanced performance with these blacked-out performance accessories that unleash more power, improved throttle response, and add a rich and throaty exhaust note with Stage 1 Exhaust, a Thunder Stroke High Flow Air Cleaner, and Stage 2 Performance Cams. Install this performance package and you’ll feel like you’re riding a new bike. For ultimate style, add Fish Tail or Six Shooter exhaust tips.

APE HANGER HANDLEBARS: Add custom style, a comfortable reach to the controls, and a load of attitude with the black Ape Hanger Handlebar Kit. You’ll enjoy the riding position, and on every ride you’ll cop an attitude like you own the road.

PREMIUM AUDIO WITH COLOR MATCHED SADDLEBAG LIDS: Treat yourself to powerful audio by installing Premium Saddlebag Audio. Combined with the Matte Black Saddlebag Audio Lids (required & sold separately), the audio in the color-matched saddlebag lids ensures you’ll hear your road trip playlists loud and clear.

BLACKED-OUT STYLE: Go full throttle with your blacked-out custom style. Switch to all-black Floorboards, and install black Fender Trim and Saddlebag Trim that replace stock chrome pieces. The black Front Highway Bar adds black custom style, tip-over protection, and a comfortable perch for your feet when cruising.


Engine Type – 49˚ V-Twin
Transmission – 6-speed/constant mesh/foot shift
Battery – 12 volts / 18 amp/hour, 310 CCA
Bore x Stroke – 3.976” x 4.449” (101 mm x 113 mm)
Clutch – Wet, multi-plate
Compression Ratio – 9.5 : 1
Cooling System – Air / Oil
Displacement – 111 cu in / 1811 cc
Exhaust – Split dual exhaust with crossover
Final Drive – Belt drive, 152 tooth
Fuel Capacity – 5.5 gal / 20.8 ltr
Fuel System – Electronic fuel injection, closed loop/54 mm bore
Oil Capacity – 5.5 qts / 5.20 ltr
Primary Drive – Gear drive wet clutch
Torque -119.2 ft-lbs at 3000 rpm

Front Suspension – Telescopic fork, 46 mm diameter, 4.7 in / 119 mm travel
Rear Suspension – Single shock 4.5 in / 114 mm travel, air adjustable

Dry Weight – 803 lbs / 364 kg
Ground Clearance – 5.6 in / 142 mm
GVWR – 1,385 lbs / 630 kg
Length – 101.2 in / 2571 mm
Rake/Trail – 25° / 5.9 in / 150 mm
Seat Height – 26 in / 660 mm
Wheelbase – 65.7 in / 1668 mm

Brake System Type – Individual front and rear control with ABS
Front Braking System – Dual 300 mm floating rotor with 4-piston calipers
Rear Braking System – Single 300 mm floating rotor with 2-piston caliper

Front Tire – Dunlop Elite 3, 130/90B16 73H
Front Wheel – Cast 16” x 3.5”
Rear Tire – Dunlop Elite 3 180/60R16 80H
Rear Wheel – Cast 16” x 5.0”
COLOR & MSRP Thunder Black Smoke $ 21,999